"Developing inner strengths by
following the path of harmony."

What Is Aikido?

The name Aikido is composed of three Japanese words: ai, meaning harmony; ki, spirit or energy; and do, the path, the system, or the way. Aikido is the way of the spirit of harmony.

Martial arts are studied for self-defense and self-improvement but Aikido is different from other martial arts in that the practitioner seeks to achieve self-defense without injury to attackers.

The basic movements of Aikido are circular in nature; most attacks are linear. The Aikidoist harmonizes with, rather than confronts, an aggressive line and converts it into a circular motion that renders attackers helpless.

Then, instead of using potentially crippling kicks or punches, the Aikidoist trains to apply various wristlocks, arm pins, or unbalancing throws to neutralize aggressors without serious injury.

Aikido is not a sport. There are no competitive tournaments. The Aikidoist betters his or her self without belittling others, and because Aikido seeks not to cause harm, techniques can be practiced at full power without fear of injury.

Aikido is the newest of the traditional Asian martial arts, holds the most modern outlook, and is proud of its high ideals.


A History of Aikido

Morihei Ueshiba, now called O-Sensei ("Great Teacher"), founded the martial art known today as Aikido. Born in 1883 in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, he dedicated himself to becoming strong after seeing his father assaulted by political opponents. He sought out and studied under masters in many traditional martial arts, eventually becoming expert at a number of styles of jujitsu (unarmed combat), kenjitsu (swordfighting), and sojitsu (spear fighting). Dissatisfied with mere strength and technical mastery, he also immersed himself in religious and philosophical studies. The stories of his immense physical strength and martial prowess are impressive enough, but more important is the legacy of nonviolence and human integrity he left to mankind.

In early 20th-century Japan, involvement in the martial arts was a competitive and dangerous business. Contests, feuds and rivalries often resulted in injuries and even deaths. The formulation of Aikido dates from an incident that occurred in 1925. In the course of a discussion about martial arts, a disagreement arose between O-Sensei and a naval officer who was a fencing instructor. The officer challenged O-Sensei to a match, and attacked with a wooden sword. O-Sensei faced the officer unarmed, and won the match by evading blows until his attacker dropped from exhaustion. He later recalled that he could see his opponent's moves before they were executed, and that this was the beginning of his enlightenment. He had defeated an armed attacker without hurting him - without even touching him.

O-Sensei later wrote: "Budo (the Martial Way) is not felling the opponent by our force; nor is it a tool to lead the world into destruction with arms. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect, and cultivate all things in nature.

O-Sensei continued to practice and teach Aikido into his old age. Observers would marvel at his martial abilities, vitality, and good humor; he was still giving public demonstrations of Aikido at age 86, four months before his death.

After he passed away on April 26, 1969, the Japanese government posthumously declared Morihei Ueshiba a Sacred National Treasure of Japan.

O-Sensei's son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, inherited the title Doshu ("Leader of the Way"). He continues his father's work at Aikido World Headquarters (called Hombu Dojo) in Tokyo. Today, Aikido is practiced by men, women and children in over fifty countries; O-Sensei's teachings enlighten the lives of thousands of people all over the world.


The Practice of Aikido

Why study Aikido? Aikido offers practical self-defense, but more importantly, it teaches self-improvement. Aikido is more than the study of physical techniques: proper etiquette, attitude, and behavior are also emphasized. Throwing and falling are stressed equally-your partner is not an opponent, but an assistant: you acquire the technique by being thrown, and practice the technique by throwing. Aikido improves not only your physical conditioning-stamina, balance, flexibility, coordination, strength, and resilience, but your mental conditioning as well: self-confidence, concentration, alertness, and concern for others.

Also, Aikido has an ethic: to defend yourself without vengeance, to forgive your enemies, and to harmonize with any attack of any description. Aikido technique is a metaphor for a way to lead your life: avoid confrontations, harmonize with unavoidable ones, and maintain grace under pressure through good times and bad.

Because Aikido does not depend on physical strength it is especially attractive to women, children, and older people; meanwhile, the young, healthy, and strong can continue to practice and improve well into old age.

Techniques using or defending against weapons such as the jo (walking staff), bokken (wooden sword), and tanto (knife) are taught in conjunction with empty-handed techniques.

The practice uniform is called a keiko-gi (gi for short). Black skirt-like trousers, called hakama, are worn by black-belt holders and women of all ranks.

Students attend classes and accumulate hours of practice toward eligibility for tests. Ranks are determined through a nationally standardized set of examinations, which are held periodically. There are five ranks called kyu, followed by black belt grades, called dan (shodan-"beginning" dan, 2nd dan, 3rd dan...). A black belt indicates not an expert but a senior student. On average, students practicing at least three hours per week, and applying themselves seriously, take about five years to achieve the rank of shodan.

[Aikido Information | A History Of Aikido | Japanese for the Aikidoist | The Aikido Primer | Japanese Sword Arts Faq Version 2.3]